More Gunfights for Earp
Following the bloody gunfight at the O.K. Corral Ike Clanton (Robert Ryan) wants the Earps to face justice for the deaths of his brothers but is angered when they are cleared in a court of law. It leads to Morgan Earp's (Sam Melville) death who is gunned down by some of Clanton's men having been elected Tombstone City Sheriff. With Doc Holliday (Jason Robards) admitted to a hospital in Colorado as his tuberculosis worsens, Wyatt (James Garner) is made a federal marshal and sets about tracking down and killing the members of Clanton's gang until he eventually comes face to face with Ike.
So having already given us the events of the famous gun battle with "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral" director John Sturges returns to pick up pretty much where he left off and tell the rest of the story. Now the first thing to mention is that Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster have been replaced by Jason Robards and James Garner which isn't a problem especially with Garner being very much at home in a western. And in truth whilst you could call "Hour of the Gun" a sequel it is more a standalone movie.
Anyway the story itself is simple as we have Clanton first gunning down and injuring Virgil then killing Morgan leading to Wyatt seeking revenge as he knows they will be after him as well. All of which comes after the Earps and Holliday are cleared of murder in court. And what that really means is that whilst we see Wyatt becoming a Federal Marshal and Holliday's illness hospitalising him what we get is Wyatt along with his posse covering the territory in search of revenge.
Now whilst this may make "Hour of the Gun" sound like just a western, action movie and to a certain extent it is there is also some depth to this as well as we see the situation that Earp finds himself in when it comes to up holding the law and getting justice. It's just that Sturges delivers the best scenes when he is delivering action with some surprisingly brutal moments including the shooting of Morgan as well as Wyatt's point blank gunning down of a hired gun at a train station.
What is very clear is that whilst Sturges does his usual solid and typical job of directing, "Hour of the Gun" sits firmly on James Garner's shoulders to make it work and he does. Garner keeps control of the fun charisma which he can so quickly turn on and plays Earp as a man who is heavy hearted over what is going on and what decisions he has to make. He makes him a thinking man who knows his decisions what ever they are will have a knock on effect. It is in truth a surprisingly brilliant performance full of minor touches as when Earp boards the train out of Tombstone and you see him taking one last look around, half out of caution in case there is trouble but also with a touch of heavy heartedness as it might be the last time he sees it.
As for Jason Robards as Holliday well he certainly gives the character some depth when it comes to his own moral compass but in the years since "Hour of the Gun" we have had some truly magnificent interpretations of Doc Holliday and Robards doesn't convince when it comes to the level of the sickness which grips him.
What this all boils down to is "Hour of the Gun" is pretty much what you expect from a western directed by John Sturges. It is robust and well made with good action and good actors but very much a movie of its time which unlike some westerns hasn't gone on to be a classic.